Keeping your eyes on your target is one of the oldest accuracy lessons around. It is taught in every sport that requires some kind of hand-eye coordination, and even those using your feet. Keeping your eyes on a target only increases your chances of hitting it. When it comes to disc golf, keeping your eyes on target through the entire driving process is easier said than done. After all, doing so won’t let you fully rotate your torso during an X-step.
Still shots of many professional disc golfers show that, during their drives, they don’t have eyes on the basket the whole time. During the ‘reach back’, most professional disc golfers lose sight of their target for a split-second. In many sports this split-second can mean the difference between a positive outcome, and a negative one.
Despite the large number of professional players who commit this sports sin, almost all of them have a degree of success. I will never personally suggest to a new player, interested in the game, to follow that lead. For many of us amateur players, our biggest frustrations revolve around inconsistency. The kinds of inconsistency that stem from being the ‘weekend warrior’ kind of player in our spare time. So why would I suggest to do the opposite of what many touring pros do so well? It’s not you, but something you simply don’t have.
Muscle memory is the practiced ability to have an action become second nature for your body to perform. This is the same concept that Michael Jordan used to make a no-look free throw. Pitchers can develop this ability working from the mound. The problem with this conceptual ability is that it takes years to learn. Even if I spent the entire 2017 season touring, my disc golf muscle memory would be negligible…at best. It takes more than just a year, or two, of consistent play to develop the kind of habit that muscle memory truly is . Some players will never even acquire it.
Why is it important? Well have you ever released a drive a little too early, or a little late? As have I. Muscle memory will give professional disc golfers room for those fractions of error. Relying on the acquired skill can let seasoned veterans take their eyes off of where they intend to throw the disc with minimal penalty. Allowing room for error, while maximizing potential drive distance? Check.
A large number of the new players to the sport will never need to think about muscle memory. When you play casually, or for exercise, the key to becoming a better player is to stay with it. After that it boils down to lowering round scores, so you will want to continue playing. Not every adamant disc golfer will play in tournaments, and not all disc golfers want to be pros. When you break it down to brass tacks, it’s a comfort issue for each individual disc golfer.
Over the course of the last month or so, covering different aspects of your drive process, ask yourself: ‘what should I work on’? For myself, I have learned that I need to pay close attention to how I use the tee pad before I even step on it. Gearing my body for the direction, and type of shot I want to throw can be just as important as practicing. It can help me become a more consistent driver, and help alleviate some disparities I run into enjoying this sport. I have also found out that I need to work on a heel pivot point if I want to increase distance. I’d rather be more accurate, personally, so the toe pivot works for me. My goal is to become a more accurate player. Consistency, and accuracy off of the tee pad. That’s the kind of player I want to become moving forward.
What kind of disc golfer are you wanting to work toward becoming on the tee pad?